SOME BACKGROUND ON US,
OUR HOUSE, AND LIVING
IN COSTA RICA
Our names are Charlie and Lupita. I am from Minnesota and Lupita is from Costa Rica. We met when Lupita was working in MN. The first time I came to Costa Rica was in 1995 to get married and we came back every year for 12 years and then moved here in 2007.
When we traveled around here for those 12 years we always had an eye out for where we would want to live. We knew from our experiences that we didn't want to be at the beach - too hot, too crowded or too remote. Here it's important to have good access to good shopping, restaurants, a bank, hospitals and have a good source of water. Even though Costa Rica has lots of water it's not always easy to access it, if you don't have a source of water on your land (which is common) and you have to get it from a neighbor they can always cut you off (it happens) or if you have city water they put a lot of chlorine in it and you have to buy drinking water and all your clothes fade when you wash them.
So, when we found this property in 2005 it was everything we wanted. We're at 4200 ft. (1280 meters) altitude, so average temperature is 72° - 73° (22° - 23° C). We have a pristine river with a waterfall and 3 big springs (we had the water tested and it's 99% pure). It's far enough from any big city so there is virtually no crime. It's the best of both worlds - remote enough to have all the privacy you want and not even see a neighbor, yet only 25 minutes from everything you need in regards to shopping, banking, government offices, hospitals and clinics, dining, etc. There is even a hotel just 3 kms down the road that has a spa & hot spring that you can use for $19 a day, including lunch. We're just 48 minutes from the airport if we take the 7:30 AM flight or it would be 1 hr. - 1 1/2 hour depending on time of day (early AM or after 7:30 PM is best). The property tax is $900/year, home owner insurance is $524/year, electrical is $200/month, phone and internet are $100/month, and we spend around $400/month on groceries and we pay nothing for water or sewer (it comes from our own spring)
In the 12 years of coming here we have stayed in a lot of hotels & homes from rustic to luxury and it makes no difference they all were not very well built - bad electrical, bad plumbing, just a general lack of fit & finish with no attention to detail. We found a good architect who had worked for an engineer from California to design the house. Lots of people here say their house was built to American standards, but it's just not true. A typical set of house plans here run about 5 or 6 pages, ours were 13 pages because I wanted everything on the plans and in detail. Here the plans are more of a general outline with all the details in the general contractor head but I wanted everything documented. I even showed the finished plans to an engineer friend of mine who built commercial properties in the US and he said they were excellent. The design took about 5 months then we put it out for bids with 5 different contractors. The 4 local contractors looked at the plans and said "oh this is a very complicated house.” They had never seen such detailed plans and they just wanted me to pay for their labor and it would be done when it was done and I would have to get all the material.
I said that wouldn't work, their incentive would be to take as long as they could to keep getting paid. I said, no you have to give me a quote on the project so they scratched their heads and came back 2-3 months later with just a final number - no breakdown. Luckily, we found a builder from San José who wasn't intimidated by the plans & got back to us in 2 weeks with a detailed breakdown with all the costs broken out with the percentage of the whole. You could tell he had contractor software and it was all laid out on a nice spreadsheet. Needless to say, we picked him - he also had the best price by far. I also hired an independent engineer to inspect the work as it progressed and sign off on each step of the construction. I told them that by the time they were done they would hate me because I'm such a stickler for detail but in the end, they liked it because they said I knew what I wanted and they didn't have to guess at anything. We started construction in June of 2008 and moved in June of 2009 but had workers here till November of 2009 to finish everything. It was a lot of work and stress but our marriage survived.
So, all the hard work of construction and landscaping is done (we were here every day) it is truly a turn key deal everything you need is here all the furniture, lighting, rugs, kitchen supplies, gardening tools & equipment (chain saws, pressure washer, wet vac, blower, lawn mower, string trimmer, etc.) All the appliances (washer, dryer, dishwasher, refrigerator, freezer, microwave, cooktop, wall oven, trash compactor & disposal.) The furniture is Stickley quarter sawn oak & cherry (the house was designed around the furniture.) Most everything stays except the pictures on the walls, adornments, the Japanese gong and a rocking chair my Great Grandfather made, just bring you decorations & you're set.
We had a fulltime worker (Alfredo) until January 2017 when he retired. He did all the heavy work in the first 10 years, so now it's just maintenance. We are in our late 60’s and have no trouble keeping up. If there are any big jobs we hire Jose & Jorge who live up the road on a daily basis. If you want a fulltime worker or caretaker we can help with that, we can even get one that speaks English.
One day a month we take a shopping trip to Price Smart (Costco), Auto Mercado (a highend grocery store), Don Fernando (a butcher shop that has their own herd of cattle on a big ranch in Arenal) and EPA (a big box home center) if needed. There is a great Italian restaurant in Orosi which is about 15 min. away and has the best pizza I've had anywhere and sometimes has live music on Fridays. Orosi also has a bank, two small grocery stores, a bakery, and a great soda (lunch counter) that has good breakfast and lunch, there is a gas station there, and a pharmacy, there is also a farmers market every Saturday in Paraíso, another small town about 20 min. away. Once again, I can't stress enough how easy it is to get around in this area. You don't have to fight all the traffic that there is in other parts of the country, and there is plenty to do and access to everything you need.
Charlie & Lupita